Win a classic Bulls book during Game 6!

As a thank you to paid subscribers, I'm raffling off three of my favorite Bulls books.

Hi all! I’ll get right to it. I appreciate everyone so much who is supporting my process en route to my book, especially everyone receiving this email: the paid subscribers of “A Shot on Ehlo.”

To celebrate you all, I am raffling off three of my favorite Bulls books during Game 6 of the NBA Finals. I will be purchasing the books from a source I love: Thrift Books.

The three Bulls books up for raffle:

  • The Jordan Rules — Sam Smith (November 1991)

  • Hang Time — Bob Greene (October 1992)

  • Transition Game — Melissa Isaacson (October 1994)

Scroll down to the end to read what I dig about each book.

How the raffle will work:

During Game 6, I will go live on Twitter and draw names from the list of subscribers (list as of this email). Not sure yet if I’ll do a physical draw from a hat or somehow assign one number to each email and then get a random number selected. Process to be determined, but what matters is that I’ll do it live on Twitter during the game.

If you win, what happens next:

I will email the winners and get an address where I can ship the book to you. If you already own the book that you won, you can pick a different one. If you want me to ship it to someone else’s house as a gift, we can do that too.

If you decide you don’t want a book, all good — just let me know and I’ll select a new winner.

So that’s it!

Like I said, thank you to everyone here for your support. Not only have you all purchased a subscription, but you are spreading the word, buying gift subs, sharing links, sending me kind words and encouragement and so much more. Everything matters and I appreciate it all.

Plenty more to come, starting with a look this weekend at the triangle offense from the eyes of high school basketball coach Steve Fitzgerald whose first exposure to the offense was watching Tex Winter lead it during a Bulls practice in 1995. He later attended a triangle clinical that Tex hosted in the fall of 1998.

Enjoy Game 6!

Best,

Jack

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The Jordan Rules

This is the book that forever changed the public’s view of Michael Jordan, and drove controversy and discord within the organization with a ripple effect for the remainder of the dynasty.

Yet while that’s how it is popularly remembered, the book itself reflects Sam Smith’s goal of simply writing a diary of a team at a crossroads. It was hyped at the time — and is hyped now — as a Jordan book, but it is actually a portrait of a team, with detailed attention paid to each player, the coaches, Jerry Reinsdorf and Jerry Krause.

As Sam explained to me in 2011:

I modeled it after Halberstam’s Breaks of the Game. He wrote this book about the Trail Blazers. It was my favorite sports book, and I thought at one time that if I ever wrote a book, this was the kind of book that I would want to write. It was a guy getting all of the behind the scenes stuff. That’s exactly how I modeled it. I copied what Halberstam had done with the Trail Blazers in ’78. He missed the championship year. His book was better written than mine, but mine had Michael Jordan. He had Bill Walton in a cast.

Hang Time: Days and Dreams with Michael Jordan

Released in Nov. 1991, The Jordan Rules was the book that, supposedly, MJ did not want you to read.

So in my mind, Hang Time by Bob Greene — with its cover image of Greene and Jordan each smiling wide — was the book that MJ did want you to read. And that made it a puff piece unworthy of our time and attention, right?

Holy moly, wrong, wrong, wrong.

When I finally picked up a copy of Hang Time last year, (along with Greene’s 1995 sequel Rebound), I was stunned. Hang Time and Rebound are open windows into MJ’s mind, written by Greene with warmth, humor and insight. The two men bonded over several years when Greene began regularly attending Bulls games, and they reached a point where Greene was traveling with Jordan on the road and holding extended, private interview/conversations with Jordan in his hotel rooms.

So while my friends and I in 1992 and 1993 mistakenly considered Hang Time to be Jordan-sanctioned propaganda, the trust that Greene built with Jordan meant Hang Time is a deeply honest book that gives insights into the world’s most famous man, ones that cannot be found any place else. It was in Hang Time, for instance, that the world learned just how little Jordan thought of the meeting David Stern held with him on March 31, 1992 to address Jordan’s growing gambling problems, namely the Slim Bouler situation. Bob Costas used Jordan’s quotes from Hang Time in his unflinching interview with David Stern during halftime of Game 6 of the ‘93 Finals.

As Jordan told Greene about the March ‘92 Stern meeting:

“The meeting could have lasted half an hour, at tops. … We wasted the next two hours. I was angry to waste that time, because I knew exactly why we were spending so long. They wanted to be able to say that they called Michael Jordan in and talked about this stuff for two-and-a-half hours. Two-and-a-half hours sounds better than a half hour. So I sat there with them.”

From that same discussion came the big quote that came to epitomize MJ’s gambling controversies during the first three-peat:

“Was I gambling with goons who had bad reputations? Yeah, I was. Should I not gamble with goons anymore? Yeah, I shouldn’t gamble with goons.”

Hang Time reveals an unguarded Jordan who digs deeper into his own psyche than I’ve seen anywhere else, even in The Last Dance. The book opens, for instance, with Jordan explaining that his dreaming life is about his failures and problems, dreams in which he is an alcoholic — or in which he is not a basketball player of average talent but with deep joy.

Remember: this was published at the start of the ‘92-’93 season.

Transition Game: An Inside Look at Life with the Chicago Bulls

In 2016, I took an essay on how Jerry Krause rebuilt the first three-peat into the second three-peat and expanded it into a book on the ‘96 Bulls. As I read and re-read a number of Bulls books for that process, I stumbled upon a book I somehow had no idea existed: Transition Game by Melissa Isaacson.

Published in the fall of ‘94, Transition Game holds a unique place in the Bulls literature canon: It is to my knowledge the only major book published during MJ’s first retirement. That makes it ideal for better understanding the tensions and troubles circling the organization during that period, because it lacks any revisionist instinct that kicked in after Jordan returned.

Isaacson’s book is structured around self-contained chapters, including long interviews with four key figures: Jordan, Pippen, Horace Grant and Phil Jackson. I cited this book a ton in my ‘96 Bulls book, in large part because the timing of the interviews and publication gives it a purity not found elsewhere.

Jordan talks to Isaacson about how he told teammates throughout 1993 that he would retire, his plans to remain retired, and why he knew Toni Kukoc would take the last shot in Scottie’s infamous 1.8 seconds.

Compared to the other two, Transition Game is more of a hard-core Bulls fan/historian book, lacking the drama of The Jordan Rules or the personal touch of Hang Time. Still, Isaacson’s book stands out for its unique timing, positioned equidistant from each three-peat at a time when additional Bulls championships — let alone an entire other three-peat — seemed unlikely to ever occur.